Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happenings Around the Barn

Praying Mantis

In late summer and early autumn, I usually see quite a few of these "honeys" as I am mowing. Saturday, I spotted this one flying across the yard and followed it. I called Ruth to come with her camera and she snapped this photo after it landed on the Scotch Pine. While she was looking at the photo, Ruth noticed that the praying mantis was missing most of its left arm. While googling for some info on this interesting insect, I found a National Geographic article with a photo. Check out the left arm of the photo at the link! (it appears to be missing its left "hand.")

Field Trip

I took the Japanese Bantams to school on Friday. We had them in our classroom and learned a little about the life cycle of chickens. Later in the day, we shared them with our Kindergarten Book Buddies. The kids really enjoyed having them in the school. I had a steady stream of students, parents and teachers parading in to check them out. I gave them an 'A' for good behavior! I'm planning on hatching a dozen Light Brahmas in my classroom in the Spring.

Bantams waiting to enter school in the morning.

Looking a little tired after a long day at school

A good day's work

Here is a typical collection of eggs from my flock. I have heard about a plum colored egg layer and am going to try to find some next spring.


Can you see the difference below between my eggs and the store-bought egg? I have read many studies that talk about the nutritional differences between free-range eggs and battery eggs. I linked some web sites for you in case you are interested. I highly encourage you to buy eggs at a farmers' market, or directly from a farmer.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Harvest Time?

When It Rains, It Pours...
I don't know about you, but we have had some odd weather patterns this year. We had a very wet spring, (not like Iowa, but wet nonetheless), and then no rain at all since Farm Day, August 9, until this past week. I haven't mowed our grass since the second week of August.

Green Barn Crop Report:

Grapes are abundant! We have a very good crop of green and purple grapes. I haven't done any research on them to know what they are. The purple ones don't seem to be dark enough to be Concords, but they taste a lot like them. The green ones are aromatic and bursting with flavor. Ruth and I were going to can grape juice this weekend, but the rain and head colds took our motivation away. We made a date to get it done on Tuesday evening. Hopefully the racoons will be distracted by some other neighborhood treat and leave my grapes alone this year.

Maybe the grapes on the right side below are Concords?

Harvest Mooned

I did not spray the apples this year, so my trees were very successful in growing rotten apples. As you can see, the tree did its part, and was heavily laden this year. I don't remember now why I didn't spray them. I must have had a good reason. We did manage to find enough for Ruth to make an apple pie for my dad's 80th birthday. The deer are eating them as fast as they fall. They are noisy eaters! I wish there were viable options to spraying apples, but it seems to be fruitless. If you have information about other means, please share!


This picture tells it all. What does it tell you?

This one tells something too. I added some cognac to the syrup. I think I'm going to like that.

I did manage to get lots of green beans, three egg plants, twenty bell peppers, and oodles of mini carrots. I have aspirations for gardening, but no expertise.

Next year I am going to get dirtier.

I'm glad I don't earn my living by the way I garden. If so, we would be in dire straits!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Green Eggs and Ham?


I am getting between three and five eggs per day! The Ameracaunas are definitely ahead of the curve as they are laying two eggs per day for the last three days! The green eggs are theirs. Floozey (Buttercup) is laying the white egg, a Cuckoo Maran is laying the darker brown one, and I don't have a clue who is laying the lighter brown ones! We have a growing list of regular customers who are waiting for me to start selling them for $2.00 per dozen. I am planning on putting an assortment in each carton. If someone wants a special order, I may have to jack up the price. (Gouge 'em real good!!!)

The Corncrib

This smaller building (Appx 15' x 25') is an old-fashioned corncrib. It has three storage areas. If you look closely at the front, you can see a set of double doors in the center and a door on either side. The double doors open wide and allow storage for larger things, like tractors, or other farm implements. The two side doors open into long rooms that are about 6' wide and run the length of the building. These side "rooms" have open ceilings and slatted sides to allow for good air flow to keep the corn dry throughout the year. These days, farmers who wish to keep corn year-round for feeding livestock generally keep dried corn in weather (and mouse) proof silos.

In the photo below, Ruth and I keep our firewood on this left side of the corncrib. It works really well for drying the wood and also keeping it dry. We have a little blue sled that we keep in there and during the winter months, we load it up and drag it across the snow into the garage. This works pretty well for us and this room can store all the wood we need for the winter! The wood stove has cut our heating bill so much that we had to pay a penalty for not using nearly enough propane. Hmmmm, something wrong with that picture...

The other side of the building is the tool room, where we store all of our yard tools.

This picture shows the room behind the double doors where I store my Farmall B tractor. This tractor deserves a post or three of its own! It was built in 1941 and I am the second owner. I found the sign nailed upside down on the floor of tool room.

I love my tractor.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Changing of the Guard

Quail Update

As many of you may recall, I hatched some Coturnix Quail in my third grade classroom last March. After a week-long stay with my students, I took them home to the farm where they have been living contentedly and laying 9 eggs per day, almost without fail. Well, I was thinking about winter coming and making plans for survival. I came to the conclusion that I needed to do a little down-sizing. I put the 9 quail hens in a Freecycle ad and immediately received five or six responses. I contacted them to see what kind of situation they each had and I chose a family with five young children who live on a little farm in the next town over from us. This family came over and the children were all googly-eyed over these little feathered bundles. They each caught one and gently held it and placed it into the carrier. The little girls were already coming up with names; "mistletoe," "twinkie," and "featherball." The boys looked at me and said, "That ain't what we're namin' 'em." That made me laugh, because the boys had been talking up a storm and none of them talked like that!! (poor grammar, I mean).

I will do another "hatching" in my classroom again next spring, but this time I will hatch chicken chicks. Here is a link to the types of eggs Michigan State University offers at their Poultry Farm. They provided me with an incubator and the eggs hatched exactly on the day I requested! Any ideas as to what kinds I should get? Maybe Angelo (Farm Manager)would give me a mix! I'm leaning towards the Light Brahma breed right now.

I gathered the last batch of quail eggs and dedicated a little breakfast to them. I made a little omelet with cheddar cheese and some salsa. The heirloom tomato was still warm from the morning sun. Coffee with cream on the side!!

Out with the old and in with the new!

The hens started laying this past week and the eggs are mighty good!! The yolks have a strong orange color and are full of flavor. They are a little on the small size right now, but they'll get bigger as the hens mature. The brown one is from a Cuckoo Maran and the white one is from Floozie, the Buttercup. The quail eggs are on the left side!!!

School starts tomorrow

Oh yeah! I have a job. Tomorrow marks the beginning of my 10th year as an elementary teacher. I started a little late, and have been trying to catch up ever since! I have 26 students with names like Naomi, Max, Caleb, Cruz and Varun. It's always exciting to start fresh, but I'm starting to feel a little jittery!! What's up with that?!